One of the many things I can’t forget about 9/11 is my mother calling me.
At the moment I talked to her, I thought she was over-reacting. On the radio, as I drove into the office, a pair of Chicago DJs I didn’t care for didn’t know anything, but talked anyway. A small Cessna, they said, had crashed into the side of one of the Twin Towers in New York City.
On the television screen in our lobby, there was a hole in the side of the building, with smoke pouring out of it.
What a stupid, tragic accident, I thought. It hadn’t clicked. That no amateur pilot would have veered so wildly off a flight path. That someone might have done that on purpose.
My mother rang me on my cell. Again. She sounded frantic.
“I just got to work, Mom,” I said, annoyed. “I’ll call you back.”
This morning, I woke up early, but almost missed my flight.
I made a cup of coffee at 5:30. Went into my office and flipped up my laptop. Skimmed email. Made a list of things to do. Scanned Facebook, seeing who had changed profile pictures or posted about what today meant to them. Still means to them.
I needed to leave the house by 7 to catch my flight to New York City. Flying there today, I feel the touch of ghost feelings on my shoulder.
I go into the kitchen to make Reid his morning bottle. I remember that I told Jack I would set up his Batcave and some of his guys for him this morning, a night time promise as I put him to bed.
I smile. It will only take a minute.
It was 6:20.
I was stalling.
The boys have their typical morning as I pull my toiletries together, into my one quart plastic bag that I will run through security.
Reid is drinking a bottle in his crib. He likes breakfast in bed.
Jack is running about, spouting updates and asking questions. He heard Reid and it woke him up. He wants a smoothie for breakfast. Can I play Batman with him before I go to work? Will I get him a toy from New York?
We talk for another minute. Jack goes to check on his brother. When I go into Reid’s room, Jack is climbing into the crib. He looks like he might knock Reid over as he swings a leg over, but doesn’t.
“How did Tigger get in here?” I ask.
“I gave it to him. So he had someone to sleep with.”
I put my hands under Reid’s arms, about to say goodbye.
“No no no, Dad. Don’t take him out.”
Jack pops up, gives his brother a hug.
Eleven years ago, I hadn’t even met my wife, the woman who makes me want to be a better man and stands by me, even in the moments when I am not. Eleven years ago, I wasn’t a father.
Eleven years later and finally, I understand the frantic in my mother’s voice.
There are a world of fears out there, a world of people or events or circumstance that could harm people who mean everything to me. Statistically, these fears are irrational.
But that doesn’t make them any less real.
So I give my family a couple of extra hugs, a couple of longer glances, before I leave.
It is a flight like any other that I take, nearly every week. We board, take off, fly and land without incident.
But that doesn’t stop me from thinking, about what I would want them to know if something did happen.
Even if you aren’t going anywhere special today, call someone you haven’t talked to. Go to lunch with someone you miss. Give a stranger a smile.
Love costs nothing. But hatred costs us everything.